Generally speaking, in New York, a covenant not to compete means that the employee will agree not to work for any of their employer's competitors upon leaving the company. Such agreements are also known by the term "non-compete clauses". Signing such an agreement may either be a condition for being employed, or the employee may receive additional compensation for doing so.
When are Covenants not to Compete Unenforceable?
It is difficult to know whether a judge will enforce a given non-compete agreement. Even if the employee's interests may be important New York courts will certainly assign great weight to a person's freedom to choose the type of employment that is suitable for them. Accordingly, only those covenants which are deemed to be reasonable will be upheld by the court. A court will normally hold non-compete clauses to be unreasonable if they involve unusually long periods of time or if they cover a geographic region surrounding New York County that is excessively large.
Limitations on non-compete clauses must also be restricted to cover only competitors who are related in a rational way to the employer's industry. Finally, an employer is required to have a valid business reason in its motivation for imposing a covenant not to compete on an employee.
Do I Need an Attorney when Dealing with a Covenant not to Compete?
Before signing anything that may restrict your rights, you may want to hire a New York County, New York attorney to review the contract. A lawyer can then negotiate to modify the covenant as needed, or may even draft a new one that is acceptable to both parties Attorneys can provide valuable counseling to employers who are considering suing an employer who breached a covenant not to compete. They can also assist employees who have signed an agreement limiting their employment options.